Dr Rachael Ambury, Vice Chair of the YMC spoke to Ian Bowbrick, Director of Professional Development and Membership at IOM3.
Tell me about your background.
I had quite an unconventional upbringing travelling abroad a lot as a child, which gave me quite an insight into other cultures and languages. When I did leave school, I eventually went to work in industry for a local polymer-based manufacturing firm, whilst at the same time studying at a local college and then a polytechnic for my BTECs. This was when I got the buzz for materials and took a gamble and went on to study full-time for my degree, which I did at Brunel University. Here, I also studied for my GradPRI as in those days you had to pass Institute exams to qualify for the Graduate grade, unlike today.
On graduation, I went to work for Pirelli in Southampton making cables and later moved to the construction materials sector working for Marley. My final industry job was working on one of the first landfill mining projects in the South of England. This was all good experience for my CEng, which I achieved at the relatively young age of 28. Fancying a change of career, I applied and secured a job in grants and awards allocation for the organisation that became the Royal Academy of Engineering. There, I spent the next 20 years working in a variety of roles focused primarily on the professional development of engineers, in addition to technical and management training. During this time, I was also seconded to a number of other organisations both in the UK and overseas, and authored a number of technical reports.
In 2012, I fancied a fresh challenge and secured the role of Director, Professional Development and Membership at IOM3.
What does your work involve?
My biggest role is probably being responsible for membership growth and development. Membership retention is a joint responsibility shared with my colleagues in ensuring we meet the professional needs of our members. I am also responsible for maintaining our licences with the Engineering and Science Councils, and the Society of the Environment, which enables us to award professional qualifications, and to accredit degree courses as meeting the underpinning knowledge and understanding requirements for professional registration.
I am also Head of the IOM3 Training Academy and Head of the PIABC awarding body, in addition to leading the IOM3 Trailblazer Apprenticeship work. All in all a very busy role, but with variety and plenty of scope to enrich and grow the IOM3 brand.
How important is professional development to you?
Initial and Continuing Professional Development has been part of my working and professional career since 1990, although back then CPD was called CET - Continuing Education and Training. I have written numerous papers and articles on the subject, as well as given evidence to Parliament on its national strategic importance. As you can imagine, I am an avid supporter of both IPD and CPC and cannot emphasise enough its importance to members, particularly when it underpins a Career Development Plan, whatever stage you are at.
What was the most important piece of career advice given to you, as a young engineer and what advice would you give to an engineer or scientist in the early stages of their career?
Home spun wisdom is a privilege of age, and like many people I have been on the receiving end of some real gems during my career, particularly in the early stages. However, the one that has always stuck with me is: whoever you work for, the most important brand you will ever present is yourself. I have used this quote many times when speaking to students and graduate engineers and it always seems to strike a chord.
Looking back, what would you say, so far, has been the highlight of your career?
I should leave this to whoever writes my obituary, if I am that lucky! At a push, it would be securing a very significant sum of industrial research funding for the UK after the sponsor had been let down by a UK university and decided to switch their attention to the West Coast of the USA. Fortunately, I had the network and other connections to put together a bid in less than a week and swing it back in the UK's favour. The research centre this funding primed is absolutely thriving today - and testament to the quality of researchers we have in the UK. Hopefully, I have other successes to come in the future.
Who in science and engineering do you admire?
I don't want to embarrass anyone living, so I would have to say Stephanie Kwolek, the polymer chemist who discovered Kevlar. If she hadn't done that, I wouldn't be alive today, but that's another story.